Imported candy at top of contaminated food list in California

Following a state law mandating testing, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued more alerts for lead in candy than for the other top three sources of food-borne contamination combined, according to the first analysis of outcomes of the 2006 law by researchers at UC San Francisco and CDPH.

For many years, the state health department’s Food and Drug Branch has routinely prepared and disseminated health alerts to regional and county public health programs, practicing community clinicians, and the general public warning of potentially toxic food exposures. However, until the 2006 law mandated a surveillance program, the CDPH did not test widely for lead in candy. The new study shows that in the six years before the law went into effect, from 2001 to 2006, only 22 percent of the alerts about food contamination involved lead in candy. Once the program was implemented, however, 42 percent of the food contamination alerts issued by state health officials were for lead in candy, nearly all of it imported, which was more than the total for SalmonellaE. coli, and botulism, according to an analysis of alerts issued between 2001 and 2014. The study was published Oct. 26, 2017, in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause developmental delays, neurological damage, hearing loss, and other serious health problems in young children and adults. The study found that active community monitoring can identify lead in food products such as candy so they can be recalled before too many people have eaten them. Without such testing, health investigators must wait until after children have been poisoned to look for the sources, which is especially difficult when the source is as perishable as candy. “With this policy change identifying lead sources is more upstream and community-based,” said Margaret Handley, Ph.D., MPH, a professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF and the first author of the study. “By testing candy and issuing alerts when foods are found to be contaminated, we can identify and remove sources of lead before children become poisoned.”Image result for Imported candy at top of contaminated food list in California

As many as 10,000 California children under the age of six are poisoned by lead each year, and 1,000 of them are exposed to very high levels of the toxic metal. Most efforts to reduce exposure focus on the lead found in gasoline and industrially contaminated soil, as well as lead-based paint, which children take in when they eat paint chips or breathe in dust. However, after several high-profile poisoning cases, the California legislature passed a law requiring the state health department’s Food and Drug Branch to increase surveillance of lead in candy and to issue health alerts when levels are high. Over the 14-year study period, state public health officials issued 164 health alerts for food contamination. Of these, 60 were lead-related, and 55 of those were from imported food, mostly candy from Mexico (34 percent), China (24 percent) and India (20 percent). Two alerts were issued for imported foods that were not candy: One for a toasted grasshopper snack called chapuline, the other for spices.

To get an in-depth look at how well the testing program was working, the study analyzed data for the years 2011-2012 and found that state officials had tested 1,346 candies. Of these, 65 different products were found to contain lead, and 40 of those exceeded the federal limits for children (.10 parts per million). These candies came from a more diverse set of countries compared to the overall 2001 to 2014 samples; just over a third (35 percent) came from India. The others came from Taiwan (12 percent), China (11 percent), Mexico (9 percent), Pakistan (6 percent), Hong Kong (4 percent), the United Kingdom (3 percent), and one sample each from Germany, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, and Spain.

Since the candy testing program is not comprehensive, the researchers said the actual number of contaminated candies and other foods on the market could be even higher. “As more lead sources are identified we must develop prevention approaches for all of them, and not just replace one prevention approach with another,” Handley said. “If there is anything we have learned from the lead poisoning disaster in Flint, Michigan, it is not to oversimplify or cut corners when it comes to identifying and removing sources of lead poisoning.”

Adapted from: University of California – San Francisco. “Imported candy at top of contaminated food list in California: More health alerts issued for lead in candy than for Salmonella, E. coli or Botulism.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 October 2017. <>

Nutritional Nugget

Prepare for the after-school rush! Prep small containers of fruits and veggies the night before so kids can help themselves when they get home.

WODal Nugget

Arita: A type of Japanese porcelain characterized by asymmetric decoration

Inspirational Nugget
Do good for others. It will come back in unexpected ways.

“At some point, we need to stop identifying with our weaknesses and shift our allegiance to our basic goodness. It’s highly beneficial to understand that our limitations are not absolute and monolithic, but relative and removable.”

~Pema ChÖdrÖn


Tips to better manage diabetes


It can be frustrating to manage diabetes. Even though you work hard at managing your blood glucose, you may be disappointed that your numbers aren’t better. You can’t possibly do the work of your pancreas all the time. Don’t beat yourself up and do the best you can.

Here are some tips from the American Diabetes Association for improved blood glucose control:

  • Meet with your diabetes team. You aren’t alone. Choose a healthcare provider who understands diabetes well and ask if you can also meet with a diabetes educator and a dietitian. Your team can help you come up with a plan for eating and exercising. If you’re on insulin, the diabetes educator can give you guidelines for dose adjustment depending on which insulin program you’re on.
  • Test your blood sugar on a regular basis per your provider’s recommendation. If you’re beginning a new exercise program you may need to test more frequently to avoid low blood sugar. Your blood sugars aren’t going to always be perfect. If your blood glucose is frequently too high or too low, talk with your diabetes team. Low blood sugar can be dangerous and testing can help you avoid it.
  • Write your blood sugars down. This can be a pain but the good news is, you can download most blood glucose meters to your computer and print a copy for your healthcare provider. A blood sugar log can help you spot patterns much easier. Those who keep the best records usually have better control. Adding food intake and exercise to your record will better help you see correlations between certain foods, or exercise, and your blood glucose.
  • Take your diabetes medication. Missed doses, whether you are on oral diabetes medication or insulin, can lead to high blood glucose. If missing your insulin dose or oral diabetes medication is a problem for you, set up reminders.
  • Diet is important to keeping your blood glucose under control. Eating regular, healthy meals will give you better blood glucose control. That doesn’t mean you can’t go out with friends occasionally or have some birthday cake. A dietitian can give you guidelines to healthier eating.

How many more tips can you come up with?

Adapted from: Peggy Moreland, R.N., C.D.E.

Tip of the Day

Potassium power! Sweet potatoes, white beans, tomatoes, beet greens, & spinach are all vegetable sources of potassium.  Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure.

Daily Inspiration 


What is Bariatrics Again?

Sunday morning spin class! Ahhhhh, my favorite workout especially when it’s on Sunday morning. Why? Because I get to “pick” the brain of my instructor who just completed a BS Dietetics and started her internship last week. Ever since I found out she was pursuing an RD career (see August 26 post) I have lived vicariously through her stories, experience, and lessons learned.

As I started to adjust my bike and begin my warm up, she walks into the room. My eyes lit up, and I immediately approach her and asked “so how did the first week go?” I could tell she was excited because she grinned ear to ear, her eyes lit up, and I could hear the excitement in her voice. She told  me that the first week was more orientation based and that the “meat and potatoes” will begin next week when she starts working in a hospital kitchen. Although she has decided not to pursue the clinical area of dietetics (hospitals creep her out) she is super excited about the opportunity.

Her internship group will get the chance to watch a live Bariatric  surgery (they will actually be in the OR). I was so excited but at the same time I asked myself “what is bariatrics again? I know I have heard that term but darn it I can’t remember.” Yes I admit my ignorance, and after a Google search I learned that it is weight loss surgery. How cool is that?

I am 110% confident that I will succeed in this occupation! I feel it on my heart that this is from God. I have passion, drive, motivation, and dedication like never before. Dietetic field… I come 🙂